Thursday, April 29, 2010

Lessons From the Baba Yaga II

{ I'm not particularly, completely pleased with how this blip has turned out. But that's what I get for writing at 2 o'clock in the morning and being too lazy to edit a second time. Ah well. You'll forgive me...because you love me. ...Or not. }

The air was a gold, glittery, haze. It was always like that in the summertime. The heat was beginning to have its affect on our sanity. Work was done in the early morning and in the evening when the weather was better. Afternoons were almost unbearable. The thick humidity drove us inside where the cool of the wood and stone floors under bare feet would make our skin prickle. What little work we did in the afternoon hours, when the sun was at its height, was done in the moist coolness of the underground cellar.

The cellar was where Yaga, the old woman, would send me to organize her canned goods. Tall glass jars of different foods and herbs lined the shelves of a small room that was only accessible by a small, wooden door held down by a metal latch. Only one person could stand in the room, any more and the slightest movement would be impossible, and no work would get done. 

The thing Yaga hated most: idleness. If possible, no minute in time was spent without something of importance to do. And since it seemed that I was not yet trusted to be alone, Yaga stood at the entrance to the store room and barked orders to me on how she preferred her jars to be arranged. Judging by the amount of dust and cobwebs, it was obvious how long it had been since anyone had done anything of the sort. 

While Yaga was feisty and moved quite fast on her feet for a woman of her age, her knees were not as kind to her as she would have liked them to be. The stairs down to the cellar were narrow and tricky. She had said that the last time she had gone down there that the stairs themselves threw her off in an effort to teach her a lesson. She listened. "The stairs will be kinder to younger legs", she said.

I navigated down the steps with ease, and indeed it seemed that the stairs were more kind to my gangly, knob kneed legs. It was almost as if they became more sturdy and widened as soon as the pressure of my foot touched onto them. Once I reached the bottom, my eyes adjusted to the dimness and I was able to take a look around. It wasn't long until Yaga started to bark orders and I began to sort.

Lavender, Mint, Lemongrass. Herbs were to be on the right side of the room. Categorized by type and use, older jars were to be put in the front while the more newly jarred were to be set further in the back in order to age to maturity. I wondered if that was Yaga's intent for me- to be set aside in order to age properly.

Corn, squash, and peppers. Food on the left side. She didn't much care how these were to be shelved. They just had to be put together, again with the older in the front. Newer in the back. "Age before beauty!" seemed to be her favorite motto. Especially when it came to who went thru the door first, and, apparently, organizing canned goods.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Summer Fiction

Even though summer is not going to be official for another couple of months, I'm declaring it summer on account that the busy season is over and I've got that same feeling I used to get as a kid when school was close to getting out.

I will say over and over again how I hate the heat and insects, but secretly I adore summer. Who doesn't, really? Summer has a way of making one feel free. And as I am now more or less free from work I have time to concentrate on what I love. My stories have been neglected for so long; it's time to take them out and dust them off. To keep myself in line and from giving into summer boredom, I've assigned myself a number of prompts and I will endeavor to write a little something to go with each prompt. Some will be stand alone pieces, others will tie into a larger story that I have been brewing for some time now.

So, without further ado, I present prompt one: Beginnings.

Rufus Downing was walking to his flat after the movie. The evenings were getting cool; Fall would come soon. He liked Fall and the changing leaves and the promise of peaceful winter. He liked peace and quiet. Rufus always tried to solve every problem peacefully, never doing anything that might make him upset. He tended to let the little things in life just drift by him.
So now, as the men who had been following him since the cinema began to taunt him, he ignored them and continued toward home. He wouldn’t call himself a pacifist; he was more like a preventist. He practiced a philosophy that kept him, and others, out of trouble.
Rufus sometimes pretended that he wasn’t even where he was or who he was. He was just some formless specter floating above the scene, watching what was going on but not participating. Anyone could say anything to him and he wouldn’t even blink. And he had heard some terrible things, had horrible insults thrown at him. And he would simply shrug them off and keep going.
But everyone has a breaking point. Everyone has that one thing that sends them over the edge. Rufus had just heard his.
“Oi, ginger!”
Rufus stopped. The ringleader, a burly teen, nodded to his cohorts.
“Did ya say what I think ya said?” Rufus kept his voice level, calm, and quiet. It made what was to follow all the more impressive.
“Yeah, ginger. You ‘eard me, ginger.” The burly teen and his little gang walked up behind Rufus. They figured they had found the perfect punching bag. After all, Rufus was on the lean side and was some years older than they were. They thought they had found someone who could easily be beaten.
“That’s what I thought.”
They were, of course, dead wrong.

Reports initially stated that a wild animal had been spotted and had savaged some local teens. A couple who had been walking toward the nearby cinema heard snarling and claimed to have seen “a great red beast” attack the teens in question. The youths who had been attacked were admitted to the local hospital with “severe lacerations to the face, neck, chest, and arms.” Reports also stated that the teens were hysterical and screaming of monsters.
Rufus chuckled softly at the news report on the TV. He was in the pub, sipping on coffee that was a bit too strong for his liking, but he had a bad taste in his mouth and needed something to overpower it. He laughed again; the news always over exaggerated incidents like these. He had barely scratched the others and had nibbled only slightly on the offending ringleader.
He didn’t like violence. But he really couldn’t stand young thugs who used people’s hair color as an insult.
“You think this is funny, do you?” A large, gruff man at the counter had turned and was looking right at Rufus. Although the man was smiling, a chill ran down Rufus’ spine and the hairs on his neck bristled.
“Yeah, I do.” Rufus gulped down the rest of his coffee. “Just some dumb kids who ran afoul of someone’s pet; didn’t want anyone to know they was roughed up by a little terrier and invented a story about a beast.” He got up to leave and found his way blocked by the stranger.
“Nice little story you’ve got there. But you and I both know that ain’t what ‘appened.” The man sat down across from Rufus and motioned for him to sit. Rufus was genuinely worried. This man, this imposing man knew something and he was not afraid. “Now, I’ve been wonderin’ what could ‘ave set off a seemingly ‘armless bloke like you. From what I can tell, you seem to be nice chap, well mannered, peaceable. Then suddenly, bam! You turn an’ nearly take that poor kids ‘ead off.”
“You must be mistaken.” Rufus knew it was a stupid thing to say, but he felt he had to say something to contradict the grinning man across from him.
“No, I ain’t. ‘Cause I was watching you when it ‘appened.” The man pulled out a cigarette and lit it. He took a long drag and blew the smoke out slowly. “What a surprise to be walkin’ down the road and see an ‘onest to God werewolf right in front of me.”
Rufus could feel all his muscles tense. He found himself looking for a quick escape route, should things get ugly. If he was quick, he could change and get away from this menacing man.
“And ‘ere I was, thinking I was the only farkin’ werewolf in the ‘ole country.” Rufus was stunned at the stranger’s blatant admission. Even though most people knew that lycanthropy was just another form of physical magic, it was still so rare that a certain amount of fear was attached to the ability.
“You’re a werewolf?” Rufus had to make sure he wasn’t hearing things.
“Yeah.” Upon seeing the expression on Rufus’ face, the man laughed and shook his head. “Oh, man. I din’t think I’d scare you that much.” He put out his cigarette. “My deepest apologies; I just got a bit carried away. You see, I’ve been looking for other shape shifters, particularly werewolves.”
“Why? If this is for some game show or circus, you needn’t say any more.” Rufus had had such offers before.

“No, man. It’s nothin’ like that. Listen, my name is Rex Weatherford,” he paused and leaned across the table, “and I have a proposition for you.”

I shouldn't have to say this, but I will anyway. Don't steal. Baby seals die when you steal other people's work.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Blog or Flog

Blog or Flog. Those words came from the lovely Lucy during the first Fantastic Spatula tea party (dare I hope it won’t be the last.), and they made me think of the various forms of encouragement doled out since December. 

Sometimes the wisdom comes from your comments.  From Shannon I get “Dare to Suck,” and Leila said to “write without fear!”

Sometimes, as in the case with Lucy, it’s a lovingly issued ultimatum to get my butt in gear. Yesterday a friend informed me I had to post every Monday.  No excuses.

Other times it’s through the content posted by people who’ve visited Fantastic Spatula.  R’s business venture inspired me to take risks for what I want.  Her blog is a continual source of entertainment and well-timed quotes, like the one from Arthur Polotnik. I hold my head higher when I think of Josh Hanagarne’s instruction to walk as if wearing a cape.  Go ahead.  Try it.  Imagine the cape sweeping back, the wind in your hair, the rush of limitless potential as you become your own superhero. 

So thank you—each of you—for making Fantastic Spatula a magical experience for me. I hope you can find encouragement here, too. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lessons From the Baba Yaga

It was never my intention to wander away from the road that you have so kindly paved for me. I simply wanted to smell the roses.

And then my eye caught sight of some beautiful wildflowers. Was it my fault that they grew so deep in the field away from your watchful eye? I picked what ones I could; the roses may smell so sweet, but wildflowers are much more potent to the gypsy heart. I plucked one and made a ring of it for my sweetheart. If only I had a sweetheart, that is. Surely someone, somewhere, is wanting a wreath for their finger. (And for whom I shall gladly supply!)

I kept thinking all the while, how nice it would be to not know the difference between dreaming and awake. The way that small children do not know that the difference: it is all the same to them.

How nice would it be, if...
I am close now to the grove of trees that make the forest. Far down from the lane where you stand. Your hand held horizontally against the vertical sun to block out the shine. Those green-blue fervent eyes looking rampantly around for my familiar face that has gone wondering. You call out my name, although I do not hear you, I know that that is exactly what you are doing. I do not want to come back for fear of being scolded for wandering off. Although I would love you tell you, that had I not ventured as far as I have, I would have never found you a ring.

He loves me, He loves me not,...
I leave a trail of petal breadcrumbs for any who dare to follow. My feet echo my thoughts as they trail on from high grass to pinestraw forest floor. I do not know you anymore. My mind is somewhere else, in the meditation that comes with solace. Deep into the woods now, I hear the caw of a crow. It is now that I take notice of where I have led myself to. Here is where I see your cottage. So quiet, alone, and brooding. Behind its doors I know are answers. Answers that I know I need, but somehow do not want and am afraid to achieve. Asking questions requires daring risk.

I do not let my reasoning mind get the better of me, but allow the curiosity of an inward child peak thru my eyes. The wooden door gives way under my slight touch, my eyes adjust to the darkness, and there you are: Haggard, dusty, draped with age and bitterness, and cloaked in crooked grin. You let me in.

I sort for you the grains of your youth as you weave together stories for my young and maliable mind to feed on. Your bent cane resembles the back of the one that it carries. You do not so much as walk as scuffle across your pine floors that perhaps once were dainty. As you may have once been.

I come to wonder how one comes to live this life. Where herbs are hung upside down to try, and hang from the beams like faeries asleep. You tell me that it was not the life you had intended to live. You were different. You saw more than they saw. The colors to you were always more vibrant. The glory you saw in all things, others were blind to see. Somehow, they managed to shun you. To keep you hidden and unloved. And you let yourself believe them when they said that you were not enough. Eventually you sought solace in the only place that offered it: in the deep, deep, hollow. (Where Angels fear to tread.) Every now and then you would have a visitor. Usually a young girl, not unlike myself you say. You would teach her the ancient and graceful ways of protecting herself from the very ones that turned you away. And now you would teach me the same.

Today I have come to learn from you, and hope against hope, that even as great as you are...I do not end up like you.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Shall We Dance?

I’ve been thinking about romance lately, as some do in Spring when flowers are blooming and the weather is warming. And no, it is not that I’m pining, but it is just an interesting topic. The genre of romance emerged, according to some, in the late Medieval period with chivalry and all that jazz. It later revived as an answer to the Industrial Revolution and the Romance era was born. Byron and his lot exemplified the Romance era lifestyle of sitting around large villas in a consumptive stupor and telling idyllic versions of the past.

Now, despite my penchant for movies involving gun fights and arterial spray, I’m a big romantic softy at heart (minus the consumption). There are many things in life that I will see and think, “How romantic!” Candle lit tables, a night time cityscape sparkling on a water front, anything French, an old couple holding hands, etc. and so on and so forth.

However, for me, the most romantic thing on earth is a waltz. To quote my mother, “I've never met a waltz I didn’t like.” I can’t explain the appeal that the waltz holds for me, but whenever I hear that ¾ beat I slip off into a soft focus daze of Old Europe, poofy dresses, and masquerade balls. I even like those creepy “circus” waltzes. You know the ones; on the surface they sound pleasant, but then you notice the chords are not quite right and the whole thing seems off kilter and sinister.

There aren’t many musical styles that are quite as versatile as the waltz. A waltz can be happy and dreamy, or sad and mournful. Waltzes were heard in grand cities and in rural villages, in palaces and in town halls. Waltzes are beautiful, creepy, folksy, elegant, and everything in between. No matter what kind of waltz it is, it embodies the spirit of romance and romanticism. A waltz will always transport you to some other place, some other time. Let’s face it folks. Waltzes are magical.

Hopefully, Blogger will cooperate with me now, and I can put up my favorite waltzes. Let's see:

This isn't all of them, of course, but it will do. I hope you enjoy these and I hope that there is something out there that means as much to you as a waltz does to me.

Monday, April 19, 2010


I just found out it is National TV Turn-off Week, which is ironic since the husband and I, people notorious for not watching television, bought a device that allows us to watch webcasts on the old boob tube and immediately surfed to Jon Stewart. That’s me, always going opposite the trends.

I bring this up because the week reminds us to choose how we’ll spend our precious time. How will we make and/or receive magic?

If you’re considering National TV Turn-off Week and want a few good reads, these sites and blogs have great suggestions:

The Book Studio

The Book Lady’s Blog

Lena’s Lit Life A great author blog. LOVE her.

Slushbusters They have author interviews, too.

Fountain Bookstore Folks near Richmond, why not take that tv watching time and go to a literary event?

James River Writers author interviews

Indie Bound

Not interested in being a bookworm this week?

DIY with Young House Love

Knock Off Wood

Soccer By Ives

Will you hide the remote this week?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bueller Days

I’ve recently taken to calling them “Bueller Days.” I was proud of myself for coining the phrase a week ago. I used to call them fly days. (If you know anyone else who calls them Bueller Days let me know). You know the days. The sun is shining; white puffy clouds create funny dinosaur shapes one minute and a completely different shape the next, maybe that of a Harry Potter character… maybe not... Maybe a breeze carries your favorite smell – Confederate jasmine, cut grass, or the Chinese grill across the street. Maybe a parade comes through town. All day the slant of light is conducive to all types of magic. You feel like anything could happen, anything could be accomplished – anything but work. It’s quite vexing when you have to go to work on a Bueller day. Seriously, to sort of quote the name sake, how can you possibly be expected to handle anything unmagical on a Bueller Day?

P.S. Sorry for the lack of posts over the last few weeks. I’ve been slammed with work, resumes, applications, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, and so on, and so forth. Also, I’ve been having blogger troubles.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Montana Magic

For a while now I've been developing the travel bug. One of the places that I've been dying to see, (and Gertrude, too!), is Montana. Also known as "The Last Best Place". And if the pictures below are a taste of proof, you can see why!

(pictures courtesy of Google Images)

Please excuse me whilst I wipe the drool from my keyboard... Can you understand why I am so smitten?

Where are some places that you've been bursting at the seams to visit?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Childhood Caling....wait....

Sound familiar? It should. I’ve used it before. And there is a very good reason for my using it again.

I’m punking out.

No grandiose excuses, no spine tingling adventures by way of apology; I’m simply all out of anything even remotely resembling wit, talent, or cleverness. Or brain function.

However, I feel confident that after a very restful three and a half day weekend coming up I will once again regain my gusto and produce something worth reading. I swear it and you may believe me for I do weep when I vow (although that could be because I just ran over my own foot with my roll-y chair.)

Ok, so on to the “punking out” bit. I was watching “The Dark Crystal” the other day. It has been years since I had last seen it and you know what? It was just as awesome this time around as it was when I was a kid. So that started me thinking about all the other movies or shows I would watch with my family. The 80s era fantasies went a long way to shape hope how I perceive magic.

What did you watch when you were young that sent the synapses sparking with the hope that there really were magic crystals and castles beyond the horizon? I really want to know. I’m rediscovering my childhood movie magic and want to see if I missed any good ones.

Next on the list, my two favorites: Legend and Labyrinth (although I am still terrified by David Bowie’s codpiece).

Monday, April 12, 2010

April, Oh How I Love Thee…

Pardon the late night love note to April. She and I have had our fall-outs over the years, but as I sit down to write my post, my mind returns to how I love April. Here is why:

  1. Tax season ends. All the lovely accountants can unshackle the desk manacles and salve their paper cuts and come out to join the rest of us enjoying spring. My fondness might also come from a refund showing up in my checking account.
  2. Spring weddings start. Typically being dressed up and forced to socialize for hours is my idea of torture, but a friend’s wedding last weekend cut through the misanthropy. They are a beautiful couple and I can’t help being joyful. April is also the month the husband asked me to marry him.
  3. A new Dresden Files novel is released. Wizard Harry Dresden is a private eye like no one in Chicago has seen before. Changes, the twelfth novel in Jim Butcher’s kick-butt series, hit stores last Tuesday, and you can guess where I headed five minutes after quitting time. I’ve been looking forward to the novel for months (literally twelve months), and it was better than I’d hoped. I even felt sympathy for a character I’d hated since book two. Changes will delight me for months as I imagine what Butcher is going to put in the November novella that picks up where the cliff-hanger ending in Changes leaves off.
  4. Friends have birthdays. It is always good to celebrate the coming into existence of people you love, but I remember the magical celebrations held when we were kids.
  5. I finally get around to planting flowers. I always wait until late April because of the diminished frost danger. Alright, so I also have to wait until the end of April because I can’t get myself organized and motivated sooner.
  6. Everything is blooming. It is enough to overlook the pollen tarp over all of Richmond.
  7. Easter means faith, family, food, and John Donne. Yes, I tried to fit an F in there but I couldn’t. Johnnie Boy is one of my favorite poets, and I always try to read his work, especially “Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward,” during the season.
  8. My sister finishes up a year at college. She and I have a tradition. On move-out day I go to her college and we eat tongue-titillating desserts before lugging refrigerators down three flights of stairs. Maybe this year we should try gorging on ice cream after heavy lifting.
  9. My brother has prom. One of the great benefits of having the cutest siblings on Earth is seeing them decked out to promenade. And promenade they do when hundreds of people turn out to flank the walk and watch the couples a la Academy Awards. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.
  10. Fantastic Spatulans will come together to par-tay. More on that weekend magic later.

Are you infatuated with April? Having a fling? What would you include in your love note?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Hello, my lovelies! I trust you all had a pleasant Easter holiday? I know I did; what could be nicer than a calm spring day, with lively people, fun conversations, and way too much delicious food.

This year, the Easter weekend was doubly nice, for my mother’s birthday was the day before. We spent the day watching fish and frogs at the pond, eating good food, and watching Dr. Who.

Well, you may be thinking, that’s all well and good, but what’s my point? Please bear with me, reader, for I am about to become a little bit maudlin. Thinking about my mother’s birthday reminded me that all the things I find magical in this world are that way because of her.

I would never have found music to be so moving had she not taught me to listen and appreciate it. I would not have been squirreling rocks away in the nooks of trees, hoping for dragons to hatch, had she not encouraged me to let my imagination run rampant. Let’s face it, folks, I wouldn’t be me if not for her. Thanks Mom, you freak.

Who, in your life, inspired you to see the magic in everything? Have you thanked them lately?

Look! Dragon eggs!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Weekend Magic: Back to My Roots

The husband and I enjoyed a sunny Easter weekend back home with family. My sister Kimberly and I dug up daffodils and daylilies from the edge of Grandma’s yard to transplant to the flower bed here in Richmond. In Grandma’s yard the brick borders have fallen and lay covered in weeds, but working in her garden brought back memories I hadn’t thought of in years. I remembered childhood afternoons spent playing among the irises and hyacinths while Grandma created Eden inside brick borders.

My family has lived in our small town for about seven generations, a time spanning over two hundred years, and my parents' farm has been in the family about a century. It is our place. We see our ancestors as clearly in the creeks and fields as we do in the old portraits Kimberly and I found in Grandma’s spare bedroom. Are you rooted in a place? What about it draws you? Would you be the same person if it wasn’t for that place?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What's in a Name?

For those of you who know me, you know that it's not unusual to find me under my headphones for more than two hours at a time. I love music. I have it on almost constantly while I'm at home and all the time I am driving in my car. Some music really catches you off guard and speaks to you in such a way that you just can't help but get farklemt.

But what I really love are name songs. Talk about something being personal! Even if the song is not about me per-say, there is usually some element I can relate to. So I decided to go troll the interwebs and find some youtubilicous samples for each of the Fantastic Spatulans. (See if you can guess which video belongs to whom. Though I'm sure it won't be too hard. You geniuses, you!)

So how about you guys? Do you have a favorite name song?